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spotfin shiner

spotfin shiner (Cyprinella spiloptera) Photo © Uland Thomas

Features and Behaviors


The spotfin shiner has a deep body that is compressed from side to side. The average length for this fish is two to five inches. The back and upper body are silver-blue with a dark band on the side that is most easily seen in the posterior half of the fish. There is a black blotch in the posterior part of the dorsal fin. The front edge of the dorsal fin is slightly behind the front edge of the pelvic fin. The scales on the sides are diamond-shaped and outlined with dark spots. Teeth are present in the throat. The breeding male has the dorsal fin uniformly dark and his other fins yellow. Tubercles (bumps) are present on the head of the breeding male.


The spotfin shiner may be found in the northern one-half of Illinois, the east central border and in the Wabash and Ohio rivers. It lives in large creeks, rivers, lakes and reservoirs. Habitat alteration has reduced this fish’s Illinois range from its former statewide distribution. Spawning occurs from May through August. The eggs are deposited around submerged logs or exposed tree roots near riffles. Breeding adults make sounds during courtship. The sounds may be used as a species recognition tool. The spotfin shiner eats aquatic insects. It lives for about three years.

Illinois Range


Kingdom: Animalia​
Phylum: Chordata​
Class: Actinopterygii​
Order: Cypriniformes​
Family: Leuciscidae

Illinois Status: common, native